Saturday, November 26, 2016

R.I.P. Ron Glass: Tonight We Listen To The Firefly Original Television Soundtrack For You!

The Good: Musically interesting, Decent duration
The Bad: Incomplete, Short pieces, Poor album flow
The Basics: Greg Edmonson's Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack is an accurate collection, but not one that allows Edmonson to show off his musical prowess for more than three at a time.

Today, news broke that acclaimed actor Ron Glass died and it only continues to reinforce just how terrible 2016 has been. Ron Glass had a long career, which had new life breathed into it when he appeared on Joss Whedon's sleeper hit Firefly (reviewed here!) as Shepherd Book. Glass guest starred on a couple of episodes of Whedon's Marvel Cinematic Universe spin-out Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., but rose to prominence on television with Barney Miller. Like innumerable fans of his work and Firefly, the only personal stories I have of Ron Glass involve encountering him at science fiction conventions. Still, he was one of the most gracious, kind, and articulate (I write that because one might be surprised how many actors have absolutely no opinions on their character or the work they are performing on - but Ron Glass did!) celebrities I ever met.

Tonight, as I contemplate the life of Ron Glass and fondly recall my brief meeting with him, I found that he was one of the casualties of 2016 who I wanted to write about and commemorate in my blog. The problem I quickly discovered, however, was that everything I have directly encountered with Ron Glass in it has already been the subject of a review! So, I thought I would sit and listen to the Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack as I thought about Mr. Glass and his career and it occurred to me that I had never reviewed the album!

The Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack is an interesting musical work that is intriguing to me as a fan of both Firefly and classical/modern classical music. It is also one that made me almost instantly regret using it as a way to commemorate Ron Glass. The Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack is almost entirely the work of Greg Edmonson and the album is more than enough to make me want to track down an album of his original works. Sadly, Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack is not a compelling work on its own.

It is not long into the Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack that I was forced to recognize two things: 1. composer Greg Edmonson is hampered by his subject and 2. Firefly's soundtrack and themes might have been integral to the work, but they hold up very poorly out of context. The first point is a classic argument for television soundtracks, especially for works that have a lot of action in them. Composers like Edmonson create musical works to match scenes on a monitor and they work to heighten mood and convey a new emotional depth to subtly influence the viewer in other key scenes.

What Edmonson is not doing on the Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack is creating well-rounded musical works. Unlike something like The Red Violin Soundtrack (reviewed here!), where the pieces are of significant duration that they can musically develop as their own works to stand up outside the context of the film, the pieces on Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack are largely short and fractured. Within the twenty-five tracks on the Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack, there are 44 titles and almost as many musical themes. Outside the Main Title theme, "River's Dance," "Inara's Theme," and "River Understands Simon," none of the tracks seem truly long enough to develop on their own into fully-realized musical pieces with their own development, themes and complexity. The song starts and before it can truly go somewhere transformational in the moment it was developing . . . we cut to commercial or worse, the song abruptly transitions from a soft, contemplative musical composition into a frenetic noisy piece that aurally shocks the listener.

With 25 tracks clocking out at 60:15, Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack accurately translates the music of Firefly to the listener. The music of Firefly is almost all present - Jayne's Cobb's bar tribute song is very noticeably absent from the Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack. The average musical piece is in the two minute range and contains a blend of guitar, violins and mellow percussion. There are more noisy, cacophonic sequences that amp up the percussion and feature more aggressive guitars, but most of the more aggressive music is on the album's first half.

Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack fails to create a coherent musical expression and rather than beat that dead horse, it is germane to explore the second epiphany I had while listening to the album. There is very little music on the Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack that is evocative of the show. I've listened to a lot of television soundtracks and usually I run into the opposite problem; I hear the musical composition and all I do is react to how it was in the television show. The Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack is a suite of musical clips that evokes shockingly little in the way of recall to the moments they were paired with on the television series.

In other words, the compositions on the Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack successfully enhanced the moods of the scenes they were present in, but in no way became so integrally linked with those scenes as to allow them to evoke them in the listener's mind. Perhaps the Firefly - Original Television Soundtrack is a good tribute to Ron Glass by contrast; his subtle deliveries and his mere presence enhanced every scene he was in, but his absence is keenly felt when he is absent.

For other soundtrack albums, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Soundtrack
An Inconvenient Truth Soundtrack
Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack - The Bee Gees


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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